Made in New England Series: Emily Whitney of Crane & Lion
In the yoga community, it can seem like everybody looks the same as far as apparel goes: bright colors, eclectic patterns and lots of pizzazz. Founder of Crane & Lion, John Udelson, saw a gap in the market for timeless athleisure pieces, and so he launched his brand of yoga wear that can be worn from class to coffee. Inspired by the coastal colors of New England, Crane & Lion is designed for women who both take risks and know the importance of recovery (just like “crane” and “lion” pose is yoga). We met up with their Operations Manager Emily Whitney to chat about their love for community partnerships, the importance of listening to the customer and the ups and downs of running a startup.
R.K: What made you start your brand? How did you first get the idea and decide to launch?
E.W: Crane & Lion was created by John Udelson who is our current CEO. He was on a yoga retreat down in Mexico with Amy Wren [a Boston yoga instructor], and he was looking around and saw that all the women there were wearing the same exact thing – the typical yogi brands. So he thought he could create a brand that offers classic, timeless pieces to go to yoga class and then meet up with your friends for coffee after. All the items are based off of the active lifestyle but can form into any outing! I love all the crazy, wild prints but it’s also nice to have some more calming colors. A lot of people say that our items are really easy to travel with as well, so it’s nice for people who are going away or to a yoga retreat!
R.K? How do you go about designing the apparel?
E.W: Our designer Mireia is our core designer, and we listen to a lot of our customers be it online or in-store. A lot of people were asking for shorter tights that are still full-length so we came out with the Mid Rise 7/8 tight that we launched about four months ago. We stick with a lot of blues and subtle tones because we like to reflect that we are a New England company, so we use coastal colors but also pay attention to the trends going on in fashion.
R.K: What did you have to learn the hard way? Any particular challenges along the way?
E.W: Yes! We are a very small startup company so we are doing a lot of things ourselves, and it’s all about trial and error. It is such a learning process for us, but it’s great because we get to take risks and see where those lead. We had a couple pop-up locations throughout the year, which was really fun and provided an experience for our customers but we also had to make sure they ran properly. We did a lot of events at those popup locations, too!
R.K. What’s been your biggest accomplishment or proudest moment so far?
E.W: Last winter, we were on the cover of The Oprah Magazine and she was wearing our complete outfit! And she actually just posted another outfit the other day that she was wearing. So I guess our proudest moments are the brand recognition. We’re based here in Boston so it’s always cool walking down the street seeing women wearing our tights. It always brings a smile to our face!
RK: Has there been a benefit to starting your business in the New England area that you don’t think you’d get elsewhere?
E.W: Yes. I feel since Boston is such a small community, we are able to get such amazing ambassadors who help us out with promotions and events. It’s been great getting to know all the local fitness instructors and getting our name out there. From my understanding, we’re pretty much the only athleisure-based brand in Boston. So that’s really cool! Everything is usually in NYC fashion wise, so it’s nice to say we’re from Boston and don’t need to be in NYC to be successful.
R.K: What would you love to see in the New England food and wellness scene that you don’t now?
E.W: I love seeing all the collaborations that go on in Boston. We often try to collaborate with Boston-based brands, and partner for events. I love how the community is so welcoming and how we can work with different brands, so I’d like to see more of that. In our Nantucket store, we always team up with Follain so it’s great to have that support.
R.K: What other local food and wellness brands are you a fan of?
E.W: I love Pressed; they’re great and we do a lot of events with them in the Beacon Hill area. In Nantucket, we do lots of events with Follain. And then I’d love to give a shout-out to MGH because we collaborated with them for the MGH Cancer Center tights. The tights are all black with a rainbow on the waistband and 100% of the proceeds go to MGH Cancer Center. We did an event with them last summer in Nantucket and it was one of the best selling days we’ve had!
R.K: Who has been the greatest influence or role model in starting your business?
E.W: Our biggest influencers are our customers because they are the women who are active. They may have a family or a stressful job and they’re always on the go. They are our inspiration to help them get through the day seamlessly and not worry about what they’re wearing.
R.K: What’s your favorite quotes or business mantra?
E.W: Our brand essence is Loving Kindness:
May you be at peace.
May your heart remain open.
May you realize the beauty of your own true nature.
May you be healed.
May you be a source of healing for this world.
R.K: Where do you hope to see Crane & Lion in the next two years?
E.W: We have multiple locations up and down the East Coast. I would love to go down the street and have everybody know of Crane & Lion and say that they love the brand and know what we’re doing. I’d want for more people to know who we are and what we stand for — and love our clothes!
R.K: What advice would you give someone looking to start their own wellness business?
E.W: I would say it’s tough and it’s a lot of hard work and hours. But once you get that recognition, it’s completely worth it.
R.K: Here at The W.E.L.L. Summit we like to say “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” How would you describe your vibe?
E.W: Our vibe is definitely calming. We want people whether online or in the store to come in and feel like they can get away from the crazy world and have time for themselves. So our vibe is calming in allowing people to take time for themselves.